It’s almost spring!

The winter here was not too bad in the snow department, but I’m still ever so glad to have made it through until March.  I really don’t like winter, and I’m very much looking forward to springtime and flowers and warmth. Here’s a gratuitous flower shot — pure eye candy, isn’t it?

I’ve been the worst blogger ever lately, partly because of work, but also, I think, because I have been doing quite a bit more reading in the last few months.  (Latest fave book: 600 Hours of Edward.  Some adult content, but an amazing view into the mind of an adult with Asperger’s.)

The latest from work: the OB building flooded, which put our department completely out of commission for a few weeks. We’ve been keeping a skeleton crew of OB nurses in our ER each shift, just in case a baby decides to be born before a mom can be transported to the nearest open OB department.  The rest of our OB staff has been floated by turns to work at the Boise hospital, which has been quite a stress-inducing adventure.  So far, the shifts I’ve done have gone OK, but it is no small thing to be handed a patient load on a busy floor to which you have not been oriented.  On the bright side:  the Boise hospital is where John works, so a time or two we’ve been able to say hi and chat a minute between shifts.  (I’m still working nights and he works days.)

The latest from home:  Emily and Julianna have been practicing a piano duet and have gotten rather good at it.  I love that they’re enjoying playing together.  In fact, Julianna says she’d rather play duets than play alone.  They’re taking lessons from my mom, which I absolutely love.

Even tho there’s room in the house for the girls to have rooms of their own, I still have them sharing a bedroom.  They are such good buddies that I’m not quite willing to separate them yet, and they actually really do enjoy being together….  I may rethink that at some point– Em is almost 16, after all.  But then again, Julianna still sometimes gets anxious if she’s alone at night.  So who knows….?  Parenting is such a guessing game, isn’t it?

In other news, they now have guinea pigs, and the guinea pigs have a room of their own.  This keeps the girls from having to sleep in the same room as piggy stinkiness, but it does seem to me a bit over the top in terms of pampering your pets.  Ah well.

A reader recently asked me a question about grocery shopping splurges. I do still aim to feed my family affordably as much as I can.  Stirfry is a regular option around here.  We do homemade pizza and homemade enchiladas and fajitas, etc.  And I’ve been delighted at how many tomatoes our tiny yard can produce– enough that I’ve actually still done a bit of canning each fall.

But I have to confess that since I began working away from home three years ago, I’ve gotten worse in the grocery budget department.  Most notably, we eat out more now that I work outside the home. I’ve also been tending toward grocery splurges that are healthier options– things like salmon and blueberries and strawberries and easy salad mixes.  The overall budget difference hasn’t felt like much, because since I started working we also had four grown kids move out.  If anything, our grocery bill has gone down a dab…but not by much thanks to spendier food choices and more eating out.

In more kitchen news, I had fun organizing my pantry last week.  It is embarrassingly huge– in Idaho and Utah this type of pantry is often dubbed a ‘Mormon pantry’ since it is big enough for long term food storage for a very large family.  Yet somehow even with all that space, it still managed to become a total clutter bomb.  Here’s what it looked like before.

After a whole afternoon of rearranging and wiping down and decluttering all the various items, I got it looking a lot better.  This is definitely one of my favorite projects because it is free and very gratifying.

It also led to the unearthing of all sorts of odds and ends of food items, some which definitely and quickly got tossed, but others of which found their way into meals over the next couple days. Now I love walking in there because it just looks so much better.  Here’s what it looked like when the great decluttering was complete.

I would still like to do the following label with all the jars where I am storing dry goods. Doesn’t it look like fun?? But for now I am enjoying the fresh and tidy look! What’s new with you?  Thanks for continuing to stop in now and then even tho I have been so irregular in my blogging lately.

And– PS– if you’re planning a family trip to the Oregon coast sometime this year, swing by our beach house website and see what’s open.

Pine cones on Pinterest

I found a couple of fun Pinterest ideas for fall/Thanksgiving. First off, this bleached pine cone idea caught my eye. I thought they’d be a great way to add a little seasonal decor to the beach house, ocean-style. Basically you plunk a bunch of pine cones into a half and half mix of water and bleach. The pine cones will close up and some will look like they’re not even changing color at all.

After 24 hours in the bleach solution, you take them out, rinse them off, and let them dry in the sun. They will take awhile to open up and look normal again, but once they’re dry, lo and behold, you’ve got these pale weathered-looking pine cones.

 

Here’s a photo of my pine cones after they were bleached.  Aren’t they pretty?  The little ceramic pumpkin that they are sitting with came from the Family Dollar and cost just a dollar.

 

 

Another idea I’m thinking about trying — again with the pine cones– is a fall/winter wreath.  You paint the pine cones a variety of different shades in the same color family, then attach them to a wreath.  I have a few grape vine wreaths that need a new look, so I will be experimenting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, doesn’t this dessert look absolutely yummy?  They’re Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars.  Honestly, how could you go wrong?  These are definitely on my list to try, maybe even today.  We are having our big kids over for dinner this evening, and I am thinking they would happily be my recipe testers.

I hope your fall is going well and that you are enjoying the season thoroughly!

 

 

Fall fun

Hi everyone!  Can you believe we’re more than half way through September?

We are back into homeschool full swing, which was a mite painful to the girls this year because we never completely quit school over the summer.  For good reason– last school year we took a week off almost every month, to go to the beach house as it was being built.  So we really needed to keep going with school over the summer to get things accomplished.

After the very first full day of fall school, Julianna declared that we needed donuts as a reward.  I told her we needed to survive at least a week of school before we deserved donuts.  And so that Friday morning on the way home from work,  I stopped at WinCo and grabbed a dozen, much to their delight.  We might survive.

Last week I got a dab of canning done– just some peaches and tomatoes.  I will probably do more tomatoes in the next week too, as our tomatoes are producing really well.

In years past, I canned SO much that I got really burned out.  But doing half a dozen jars at a time is pretty painless.  And I like the idea that when Emily and Julianna help me, they are learning the same skills that our other kids did in our mega-garden days.
Another project I had fun doing was painting and stenciling a little old dresser that we have had ever since Amanda, our oldest, was a baby. Here’s a photo of it a few years back in a different color.

Now with so many kids moved out, the dresser didn’t have a purpose at our house. But we were in need of one more dresser at the beach house,  So once again I pulled out my favorite color of teal paint, which I’ve used as a signature touch of color at the beach house on several other pieces of furniture.

This time, I also incorporated a bit of stenciling, along with some new black pulls on the drawers. Here’s the stencil I chose for the drawers.

The dresser is a very simple one, and I like the way the little black embellishments jazz it up and play off the new pulls.  I hadn’t really stenciled before, but once I figured out that it only takes a TINY bit of pain on the dabber, it all went well.

A final fun touch was a roll of black and white contact paper added to the outsides of the drawers:  just cut, peel, and stick.  Easy and adorable!

(Oh, and the owl stencil down near the floor!  I almost forgot about that.)

 

 

I ended up really pleased with the makeover, and I love the idea of more life for this sweet little dresser that spent years in so many of my kids’ bedrooms.

This week we are at the beach, and my daughter Erika and I have been talking about her possibly doing a bit of blogging her.   She is just embarking on the homeschooling adventure with her three little ones ages 2-5, and is interested in an ‘unschooling’ approach.  I am hoping she might find time to write here every now and then, to share more about this twist on homeschooling.  More on this later as we get the details figured out.

I am hoping to write here a bit more myself, as I have missed writing, and would like to do it a little more regularly.  I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing lately also.  Fall projects?  Crafts?  Activities?

 

 

 

Affordable wall art!

With the beach house so close to completion, I’ve been realizing I need WAY more wall art than I have, but hello??  We have a budget and I’ve already spent it.  So I’ve been trying to think of some affordable solutions.

I have a LOT of 5×7 and 8×10 picture frames that are that old golden oak color.  I am kind of tired of the look of that type of finish, and over the years it seems like I’ve collected more that I really use.

For Christmas this past year, one of the things I did was spray paint some of the frames and then just hunted for some free printables that I could put in the frames.  Here’s a (distant) shot of the framed Christmas printables on a wall above some new coat hooks that John made for me.  I chose simple black and white printables with the silver frames and I think it turned out really cute.

 

I decided to do a similar fix to fill in some gaps in small spaces at the beach house. I first tried painting some frames with a coppery gold craft paint, which did freshen up the yellow gold oak.  Here are a couple of neat prints of ships that I put them in.  I think they will be fun in small dabs of space in the ship room.

 

 

 

Though the ones I did in gold look fine, I ended up liking the silver look better. Here are some prints that I did for the laundry room.  I think it will look nice against the sea salt paint.

Then here are a few sweet old prints of little children that I framed in silver to go in the children’s bathroom at the beach house.  Most of the metal in there is brushed nickel and I think the silver will look nice there.  For some reason I am charmed by the old fashioned prints.  I found most of the old fashioned looking prints on the Graphics Fairy website.

 

One of the printables that I ended up loving the most was this sweet one of cottages by the sea.  As you can see, we spray painted this frame black, and I think it has a really nice look about it.

My daughter Julianna, who is 12, did all the spray painting for me.  It was literally the first time in her life that she’d spray painted anything, and she did a great job.  This is not a hard project at all, and I am really excited to have a few more pieces of art to put in small places around the house.  All for the price of some printer ink and spray paint.  Gotta love that!

 

Reviving an old dresser

We’ve had this dresser for so long that I don’t exactly remember where we got it, except that I know it was old when it came to us.  It has lived in the rooms of various children, serving the purpose admirably, but getting more and more dinged up over the years.  Our 19 and 21 year old daughters used it most recently, and when they moved out last fall, they opted to leave it here at the house.

Though its finish is not perfect, it was initially made pretty well, with solid wood drawers, and a sweet simple presence about it.  Now as I am prepping to furnish the beach house, I am looking at every item we own, wondering if it would be a good fit there.

Looking at the worn dresser, my first thought was probably not. But my recent painting projects have gone well enough that I look at everything with a gleam in my eye.  I’ve had a jar of Junk Monkey paint in the cupboard for awhile, waiting for just the right purpose.  It is a color called Paris Grey.

Then yesterday on Pinterest I saw this really neat two tone dresser, and decided the two tone look might be an idea to try with my little dresser.

I started by removing the drawer handles and then lightly sanding and wiping down the whole dresser. I also taped off the top of the dresser, since I had decided to leave that the original wood color.

I painted the drawers with two coats of the grey paint, and the body of the dresser with just one.

I may decide to paint the body with a second coat, but I ended up liking the slightly distressed look that was created by using a little less paint. (Actually, I may try to figure out how the streaky look was created on my inspiration dresser, because it is really neat looking too.

Since the top of my dresser was pretty dinged up, I also sanded it lightly, and then lightly rubbed some dark walnut stain on the most distressed looking areas of the top to even the tone out a bit.  I really like the way the wood contrasts with my grey paint.

My final touch was a set of new silver-tone knobs, which I think adds a dab of fun to the project.  I may end up tweaking the paint a little more later.  But overall I am delighted with how well this project turned out.  The whole thing took me less than two hours, and I think it really updated the look of our little dresser.

 

 

January projects

Our January has seemed slower in pace than many of the previous months.  I think this is partly because the holidays are done, and partly because huge quantities of snow have kept us home more than usual.  For those of you lucky enough NOT to live around here, we’ve had 35.5 inches this winter, which breaks every record EVER since they started recording snowfall in our area.  It’s been staggering.  Kids in our area have already had a week or more of snow days,  which (judging by my facebook feed) has been very disconcerting to teachers and folks used to sending kids off to school every weekday.

Front yard snow fort

For us it hasn’t been so odd; we’ve homeschooled for a long, long time.  No snow days for us!  We have, however, had a few delayed starts and long lunch breaks helping dad shovel the driveway.  They even made an epic snow fort in the front yard after that first big snowstorm. Since then we’ve kinda gotten tired of the snow, and now it just sits there in our yard in grey sodden humps.

But back to homeschooling:  many other things in our home have changed in the past couple years.  We’ve moved to a new house.  We’ve had 4 kids move out.  We’ve spent lots of time at the coast checking out the house build.  The girls are adjusting to me working a day or two a week.  It’s been a lot.   But homeschooling has remained a constant, and I think we all really appreciate that.

I love being able to start each day slowly– no rushing off to school.   I love spending most days with the girls as they work through their school.  We have time to chat and time to read and play games, and to just to do nothing.  I read some interesting articles about homeschooling this week, and will share them in links at the bottom of this post in case you are interested in reading them as well.

One fun project that I did during January was paint a cute little night stand.  Over the years it has served a lot of different purposes in different rooms of our home, but I got tired of the orange-yellow finish and decided to give it a fresh paint job.  I was given some milk paint from The Real Milk Paint Company to try out, so I decided to use the oyster grey on this little nightstand. This paint is interesting because it comes in a powder form, which you then combine with water to create a thin paint that is non-toxic and dries quickly.

I very lightly sanded the most distressed parts of the old finish, leaving most of the finish untouched.  This came back to bite me when the paint dried.  Wherever I hadn’t sanded, the paint crackled and came off in chunks, which meant I had to go back, sand again, and then repaint those areas again. (Might have helped if I’d read the directions!!  Eeek!) Unlike my chalk paint project, sanding before using Real Milk Paint is really important, as is mixing the paint to be very thin.  Kind of a hassle to discover all that after the first coat–my momma always warned me that reading directions was a good idea!!– but I learned my lesson and the finished product was very nice.

I opted not to use the old wooden knobs, replacing them with a couple of black ones that I had left over from my bathroom cabinet staining project a couple years back.  I think the fresh paint gave this sweet little shelf a whole new look.  I’m so pleased with it.  I am thinking of painting the legs black for a bit more contrast.  What do you think?

Fresh paint!

January saw another paint project also. The girls have been wanting to paint their room for awhile, and a week or so ago they got that done– in 24 hours flat, AND all on their own.  It was quite amazing to wake up after having worked all night, and see it completely done.

They chose the paint simply because they loved the color.  I had it in my mind that updated bedspreads might be necessary to tie the room all together.  But they ended up harmonizing just beautifully.  I especially like the contrast between their black bed frames and the blue wall.  The paint also really makes the white trim pop.  Love it.  And now that I know they’re such good painters, I may just assign them other rooms in the house.

In other news, the beach house build has been coming right along!  You can see more details here.  We are hoping to get our occupancy permit in February, at which time we will begin moving in furniture!!  I’ve been scouring thrift stores and clearance racks for odds and ends of useful things to help make things pretty and comfortable.

We have a couple of couches coming soon, and we already have about half the beds, as well as dishes, dining room furnishings, tables, towels and sheets, etc.  I took advantage of some really great Black Friday sales at Macy’s and got about half a dozen small appliances for the princely sum of $8.99 each.

One fun little-known fact: you can go to overstock.com and type in ‘as is’, and lots and lots of really great sale items pop up that won’t otherwise show up in your search.  Doing this, I’ve found all sorts of things on great clearances on different household items, including shades, rugs, curtains, sheets, and even furniture.

We’re excited to go see the house again in a few days, and I’ll doubtless be putting up more pictures after that trip.  We also listed the house on a rental site this month, so if you are thinking you’d like to try it out this summer, I’d advise you to go check it out and save your dates.  Even though the home has yet to be complete, we’ve already gotten a few bookings, so dates might go fast, especially once we have it furnished.  This has been a dream for so many years that it is pinch-myself surreal to see the house so close to completion.  I love, love, love the idea of families (ours and others) building happy memories together there, and maybe even returning year after year.  Such a lovely thought….

Thanks for continuing to read even though I have not been posting tons lately!  I think of writing here lots more often than I actually find time to do it.  I’m guessing once the house is done, I will find a bit more time.  Would love to hear how your January is going!  And just in case you’re interested, here are those homeschooling links I mentioned earlier.

College Professors Weigh In

Dreading the Teen Years?

An Alternative to Charter Schools?

Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families (my book)

 

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End table makeover

Awhile back we were given a couple of nice quality end tables that a couple of our girls used as night stands for awhile.  When they moved on to other room arrangements, I wasn’t sure where else they would fit in the house.  I knew I’d need more end tables at the beach house, but I was concerned that the dark wood was a little outdated and not ‘beachy’ looking.  But then I spotted an adorable chalk paint makeover on Pinterest that turned out to be the perfect update.

I’m terrible at getting ‘before’ pictures with my projects since I usually just leap in.  But here’s a picture of the project in the early phases.  The table on the left has been lightly sprayed with plain old spray paint.  The one on the right shows the original color of the tables.

beforeHere are the drawer faces with white spray paint on them.  Something about the lighter color made the details pop in a new and fresh way for me.  I did zero prep of the wood before spraying them, except for sticking each drawer in a sack before painting so that I wouldn’t get over-spray inside the drawers.

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Here’s one of the drawer faces after paint.  Isn’t the blue sweet?  It is a 50/50 combination of Junk Monkey Teal River and Sherwin Williams Dover White.

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To paint the table itself, I started out with it upside down.  Since the legs and sides have so many crevices and details, that took a little while.

endtable

When that first coat was dry, I turned each table top side up so I could paint the tops, and also touch up any bits that I missed when painting the legs the first time around. Then as a finishing touch, I spray-painted the hardware a crisp black before I put it back on the drawers.  It had been a bronzy brown before.  I really love the way the black hardware pops against the turquoise paint.

tables

If I wanted to, I could lightly sand the edges of the pieces to give them a distressed look.  But for now I am just enjoying the pretty surface.  I do plan to wax the dressers before bringing them over to the beach house to give the finish more durability. This project was so much fun to do that I have an old dresser on my list to try next.  Most likely it will also be headed for the beach house.  Fun!!

Recliner help

Lena-Grey-ReclinerOK folks, I am on the hunt for a recliner that is comfortable for my husband, but not big and puffy. Something reasonably stylish, with straight arms instead of rounded-over ones. Bonus if it comes in grey.

The closest thing I’ve found so far is this one, but since it has not one review, I don’t know how comfy it is, and I’m a little leery to pull the trigger. Can anyone point me to a good one?

PS–double bonus if it’s under $500.

Our next adventure

I looked at my blog the other day and was shocked at how long it’d been since I’ve last posted. We did just get back from church camp, which with all the cooking and prep that I do each year, does take a bit of time. I was also working extra before we left to make up for the days off.

But there’s also another thing that’s kept us busy lately, and I’ve been itching to tell you about it. You may remember that awhile back we bought a piece of land on the Oregon coast, with the big audacious dream of building a house there someday? Well, that day is coming soon!

OurHouse

We lined up a contractor and nailed down our house plans, and talked through the nitty gritty details of cost, and decided that 2016 is the year!  We hope to have a building permit by mid-July, and if plans come together as our contractor is predicting, we could have this house built by the end of the year.  Squeeee!

It has been a whirl of phone calls around here lately, mostly between our contractor and me, working out all the many details.  There’ve also been lots of text messages with the wonderful Becky, my friend who staged our previous home so beautifully that it sold in 36 hours.  She is giving me advice regarding flooring and furnishings, with the goal of making this home a stylish, comfortable and family-friendly retreat.  Our plan is to use it for our own family several weeks of the year, and then rent it out to other families during the rest of the year.  I’ve done a ton of thinking and research to make it functional for groups with a variety of sizes and needs.

The house is 6 bedrooms and 4-1/2 baths, which includes 3 full master suites.  There’s also some fun bunk space planned for kids in the family room downstairs, allowing the house to sleep 16 in beds, with 4 more possible on cots if your crew is really big.

The outdoor living space will include a hot tub, a fenced yard, and a big deck with gated stairs for kid-safety.  We’re also planning a wheelchair ramp, an accessible bathroom, and a stair chair to cater to folks with mobility issues.

The neighborhood has a pool, good beach access, and tennis courts, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium is just 20 minutes north, so there are many good outdoor options nearby.

I’ve rambled long enough for now.  But I’m so excited that I want to pinch myself, so you can bet you’ll be hearing more about this adventure very soon!

 

Spray painting plastic chairs: does it work?

When we moved, we brought some white plastic lawn chairs that didn’t end up matching with the rest of the back yard decor, which is mostly black lawn furniture with some red and yellow accents.  The white didn’t clash, but it got kind of lost against the white fence, and because the chairs were old, they also looked pretty dingy, even after a good scrubbing.

I happened across a post on Pinterest sharing the idea of spray painting plastic lawn chairs, so I bought some red Rustoleum paint in apple red and decided to give it a shot.  The article I read said that a matte finish worked best, but I accidentally grabbed gloss at the store, so that’s what I went with.

The hardest thing in our tiny yard turned out to be tarping off enough space that I would not be over-spraying onto or patio or our white fence. #tinyyardliving  🙂  But once I did that, the job went fairly quickly.

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It ended taking a a full can of paint for each chair. I did one coat covering as much of the chair as I could, then waited for that coat of paint to dry before going over each chair again to hit the spots that got poor coverage the first time.

The cans of paint cost about $4 each.   Granted, new plastic chairs aren’t tons of money.  But I’ve had a lot of trouble with newer plastic lawn chairs being brittle and much more prone to breakage than the older ones. (Anyone else notice this?) I felt like it was worth the $4 to get some more use out of the old ones, and I am really enjoying the colorful update.

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Here’s a closer view of one of the chairs a couple weeks after painting them.  The paint seems to be sticking just fine, and I like the way the red adds some color and interest to this corner of the yard.  This corner of the yard really gets blasted by sprinklers, so I needed something that could tolerate getting wet every day.  The verdict so far: it’s a winner!

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